Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Rachel Memorial Chucks


My sister Rachel loves Chucks too, and that's been one of our more pleasant conversation topics since she's been in prison - although I guess it's not so pleasant in that it reminds her she will be wearing crummy prison shoes for who knows how long. She mentioned that her favorite pair was pink slip-ons and in response to my description of monogrammed custom Chucks, said she had a shopping fantasy of getting herself a pair of white slip-ons with her prison ID # (more real at this point than her name) on the back. I know she misses shopping...well, she misses clothes, jewelry, and the freedom to purchase (not to mention, money for purchasing). Even after 6 months of her being in jail, I still catch myself in the thought of, "I could order this for her..." Nope! She can't receive anything from the outside world but letters, other things printed on sheets of white paper, or new books shipped directly from a bookstore. (Imagine the opportunity for abuse if prisoners could receive care packages.)

I came up with the idea of ordering myself a pair of Chucks dedicated to her, with her ID on the back. I chose slip-ons, in an ecru-olive shade that I thought would match a lot of my pants (it actually doesn't), lined with pink in honor of her favorite slip-ons at home. Her ID number is boldly printed on the back. Despite the odd shade of green-brown the shoes turned out to be, I love them, although they don't make it easy - they smell really bad. Friends suggested a variety of deodorizing methods, none of which worked, notably a mesh bag of "volcanic rocks" that are guaranteed to deodorize a men's dorm room and in fact did wonders for Craig's shoe closet, but did nothing for the Rachel Memorial Chucks. After an especially disastrous attempt with scented shoe liners that made the shoes smell like dirty motel sheets sprayed with floral janitor spray, I aired them outside for 3 days to get out the sickly floralness. It was a relief to get the shoes back to their true smell, which though unpleasant (the custom Chucks are made in China, and I assume some chemical considered toxic by US standards was used in the dye) at least has more honesty than fake floral scent.

The shoes are from Converse's Project Red line, which in the slip-on category features frayed eyelet bands and two red eyelets. They are meant to look casual and God knows this pair does. The traditional (non-frayed) slip-ons Converse makes can be, in comparison, a bit preppy/prissy looking, but the custom ones look kicked-around, in a good way. And after all, prison memorial shoes can't look too bad, or probably even smell too bad.

I figured out two outfits that match the Rachel Chucks - one more casual (pictured here), and the rest slightly (only slightly) more dressy, with longer pants of a slightly (slightly) nicer fabric and a long-sleeved pink tee shirt. I made sure to accessorize myself for these photos since Rachel always notices jewelry - not only does she like to wear it, she used to sell sterling pieces at her tanning & manicure salon.

Rather than chase down Craig and try to make him understand why I was photographing myself in sloppy clothes on no special occasion (and try to micro-manage his artistic vision, which I doubt would extend to this subject), I fell back on my usual standby, the self-portrait. The lighting and framing are never ideal (not to mention my head and smile are always crooked), but at least I don't have to wait for someone else to take the photo...and I remain in control of the project! I figured out that if I do self-portraits in the bathroom the lighting is at least half-decent (we have 1980s style makeup bulbs above our bathroom mirrors), and I can check my framing by looking at the view-finder in the mirror as the camera lens faces me.

My note sent to Rachel with the photos said, "Guess I could have moved the Kleenex box and hand lotion to make a better backdrop," and "For some reason I was wearing double socks that day – the shoes fit fine with a single layer." [You know me - always with the disclaimers.]

Rachel loved the shoes and the photos and wrote back something to the effect that everyone in her prison dorm was envious of her having such a wonderful sister. (Aaawww.........)

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